By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
ATLANTA – The Atlanta Legends are on a mission as they head west to face the San Diego Fleet on Sunday night.
The Legends aim to right the ship after falling to the Orlando Apollos in Week 1. The Legends are confident and had a great week of practice. It was a lot of competition throughout the week and the team hopes it can translate onto the field.
The Legends face the Fleet on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on NFL Network. The Legends home opener is Sunday, February 24, against the Birmingham Iron at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network. BUY TICKETS HERE.
“Every game is important,” Legends head coach Kevin Coyle said. “This one is particularly important based on how we started the year. We know the task at hand and what we got to do.”
The Legends travel to SDCCU Stadium to face the Fleet. Both teams are looking for their first win to build momentum moving forward.
It will be an intriguing matchup. The Legends want to establish the run early and neutralize the Fleet’s strong defensive front that includes defensive end Damontre Moore, linebacker A.J. Tarpley, and safety Ryan Moeller.
Moore had five tackles and 1.5 sacks in Week 1. Tarpley and Moeller each made plays in the secondary. Moeller also had five tackles and an interception.
“We need to establish the run game and be able to be more consistent,” Coyle said. “We aim to have better ball security and have some shot plays down the field.”
The Legends’ offense showed glimpses last week. On their first drive, the Legends marched down the field and scored the first points in The Alliance’s history. Kicker Younghoe Koo connected on a 38-yard field goal to give the Legends an early lead.
This week, the Legends want to turn in more scoring drives and establish a better tempo along the offensive and defensive line.
“It’s important in every game,” Coyle said. “What you do on the front lines, on both sides of the ball, generally dictates the way the game is going to go.”
Defensively, the Legends will contend with Fleet starting quarterback Philip Nelson. Nelson took over for Mike Bercovici last week against the San Antonio Commanders. He was 5 of 10 for 68 yards and threw an interception. Nelson also added 20 yards on the ground.
Nelson’s ability to be a playmaker is a major calling card. Coyle knows the team must be attentive to both quarterbacks and be ready for anything throughout the game.
“I think they are very similar in a lot of ways,” Coyle said. “They are athletic guys that can run and make throws down the field. They keep plays alive with their legs.”
One key area in the game will take place in the secondary. The Fleet have a talented group of wide receivers that accounted for 20 catches and 244 yards last week. Receiver Brian Brown led the team with five catches for 66 yards. Tight end Gavin Escobar registered 16.5 yards per catch.
The Legends will look to contain the perimeter. It starts with paying attention to assignments and being in the right position to make a play.
“Our No. 1 job as coaches is to put players in the best position to succeed,” Legends defensive coordinator Louie Cioffi said. “Our first showing is not what we wanted. I think moving forward it will be a different deal. I believe in teaching concepts and techniques.”
The Legends have a chance to come away with a signature win. It starts by establishing tempo and building on it as the game progresses. If that happens, they can walk out of San Diego victorious.
“It will get us back on our feet and get us going in the right direction again,” receiver Justin Thomas said.
Family Reunion: Legends linebacker Tau Lotulelei returns to San Diego. He was originally on the Fleet before joining the Legends. It’s a special family matchup as he faces his older brother and Fleet linebacker John Lotulelei.
Homecoming: The Legends have several players that have ties to the state of California. Linebackers Khalil Bass and Dylan Donahue are from the area. Bass grew up in Encino and Donahue is from Sunnyvale. Long snapper Jeff Overbaugh played at San Diego State and Ed Reynolds Jr. starred at Stanford.
Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter @JaylonThompson.